Picked Off

I’ve been playing with Hassan for months now, and I had never seen him bluff. Never. Not once. But everyone has a breaking point — some level of provocation that will cause them to abandon their normal game and do something crazy — and I thought he might be reaching his. He hadn’t won a pot in a long, long time. In the previous three pots he had limped in three times and I had raised him every time and won the pot each time, with Hassan folding either to the initial raise or to a continuation bet. He was visibly frustrated as he threw in two $5 chips for his fourth consecutive limp.

It folded to me and I looked down at JJ. Online I would indulge in a little fist pump here, but it was live poker, so I had to settle for a mental fist pump. It was a beautiful situation: just when my opponent had really had enough, when he was going to absolutely refuse to fold, I got dealt a great hand. I isolated to 50, although I could perhaps have made it even bigger, as I don’t think he was folding. Hassan called.

The flop was QT9r. He checked and I checked back. This is a somewhat standard check back for pot control. I’m rarely getting three streets of value unimproved, even against someone who’s frustrated, and I don’t especially want to get check-raised (although I do have enough equity to continue even then).

The turn was a 5, he checked, and I checked again. While the flop decision was close, my turn check was just a clear mistake. I definitely could have gotten some value there, but for whatever reason I checked behind.

The river was a 9, making the board QT9-5-9. He checked and I bet 40 into 115, going for the small sizing to induce a lighter call. To my surprise Hassan instantly slammed $200 into the pot.

One other thing about Hassan: the guy loves to Hollywood. When he’s going to raise with the nuts he’ll go through a whole routine, sighing, holding his head in his hands, moving his chips around… I’ve seen it so many times now that once he gets started I almost want to ask him to get on with it and save us all a few minutes. No routine this time, just an angry stack of chips straight into the pot. Given that his whole affect was completely different than it had been every time I’d seen him value bet and I already thought he was close to boiling before the hand, I decided to look him up. He instantly mucked his hand and stormed away from the table.

This is why it’s a bad idea to act at the table: unless you’re a great actor (hint: you’re not), you’ll lose more by giving away information than you gain by possibly misleading someone. When you bluff once every three months, it really ought to work, but in this case he gave away enough information to let me call.


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